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Surely not? Well yes, it seems so. For after years of defending Stonehenge (“Don’t sell Stonehenge short”) the Trust has stabbed the World Heritage Site in the back by coming out in support of a short tunnel. The Government has admitted the u-turn has been pivotal so if the tunnel goes ahead the Trust’s finger prints will be on it forever, and they know it.

It’s the knowing which connects them to Shropshire Council. The latter have worked tirelessly to allow the land around Oswestry hillfort to be built on while knowing they shouldn’t. How do we know they know? Well, just last week their barrister Sarah Clover told a public enquiry (in Oswestry, ironically) that building 68 houses over in Ellesmere would constitute harm to the open countryside”. So both organisations know they’re on the wrong side of right.

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The National Trust's oak leaves together with one of the loggerheads from Shropshire Council's coat of arms. [Loggerhead: original meaning “a blockhead”, as in Shakespeare: “"Ah you whoreson logger-head, you were borne to doe me shame."]

The Trust’s oak leaves with one of Shropshire Council’s “loggerheads” peeping through. [Loggerhead: original meaning “a blockhead”, as in Shakespeare: “Ah you whoreson logger-head, you were borne to doe me shame.“]

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You can oppose the National Trust’s assault on heritage here  and Shropshire Council’s here.

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BTW, here’s what Private Eye thinks of the Dismal Undemocratic Repugnate of Shropshireland:

private eye

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Nicely put. Maybe they’ll do a job on the Trust too. Not only is it supporting heritage damage at Stonehenge it has also just let a previously expelled rule-breaking hunt back on it’s land on Exmoor. Tally ho! The Dismal Undemocratic Repugnate of Trustland – preserving the land in it’s care for ever, for everyone. Even cruel sods.

We wonder if the National Trust is feeling nervous about its inconsistent approach to protection of World Heritage Sites. It is striking that a member’s question asked in advance, about the National Trust’s stance on the 2.9 km tunnel at Stonehenge, resulted in no reply at the Trust’s AGM on 7 November:

“In view of its firm objection to the temporary visual impact (for 25 years) of the proposed Navitus Bay Wind Park on the setting of the Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site, is the Trust now prepared to reconsider its position on proposals for widening the A303 within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and actively demand a road solution that would not cause permanent major physical damage to the archaeological landscape of the World Heritage Site and its setting?”

The questioner pointed out that the Trust had said in its objection to the wind park:
“We are deeply concerned about the visual impact on the setting of UNESCO designated World Heritage Jurassic coast”.

The reply from the Trust (sent later by email) was as follows:
“Proposals to develop within or near World Heritage Sites always require careful consideration. We continue to support the principle of a tunnel of at least 2.9km under the Stonehenge Landscape. We believe that a well-designed and carefully located tunnel of that length could provide a significant overall benefit to the World Heritage Site landscape.

In respect of Navitus Bay there was no pre-existing harm to the setting of the World Heritage Site. We opposed the development because it was the wrong scale in the wrong place and was only resulting in harm which the developer had failed to mitigate.”

So it’s OK to object to temporarily harming the setting of one World Heritage Site while actively promoting permanent harm to the setting and fabric of another?

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NT 2 faces

News reached us last week that The Portman Hunt had been written to by the National Trust amid claims it’s horses and hounds damaged Hambledon Hill after the Hunt “left the recognised bridleway and came across the hill”. A National Trust volunteer was even quoted saying “They have now twice been guilty of blatant and wilful damage to a scheduled ancient monument. What, I wonder will it take to make them actually take real notice?”

Hambledon from south

Hambledon from south – Public Domain image by Prof Finn.

Lest the National Trust or others are unaware, wilful damage of a scheduled Ancient Monument is a criminal offence in this country. So why on earth are the National Trust pussy footing around with letters when they should be straight onto the police? A quick internet search shows the hunt isn’t exactly a paradigm of virtue so its explanation that they merely “left the track to round up some dogs.” should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt.

After all its not even as if its a first offence on this site, photographic evidence of Portman Hunt members bombing about the hillfort on quad bikes exists from a previous time as you can see below.

Portman Hunt on quad bikes on Hambledon Hill - Credit: Dorset Hunt Sabs

Portman Hunt on quad bikes on Hambledon Hill – Credit: Dorset Hunt Sabs

Those of you with long memories will recall we highlighted a different hunt last year who decided riding multiple horses over a barrow was appropriate. A trend of disrespect and contempt?

“The Sentinel”
[ © Denis Martindale. Reproduced with permission. See more of his poems on his blog ]

As if he were a statuette,
The meerkat struck a pose,
Without a frown, without a fret,
Serene with upturned nose…
He was like some superhero,
Cape blowing in the breeze,
While he stood firm, looked high and low,
With no thought to appease…
The meerkat was the Sentinel –
The first to raise alarm,
Called on to be reliable,
So others could stay calm…
He was the Captain in control,
The General standing guard,
The Brigadier whose heart and soul
Kept vigil long and hard.
The Sentinel’s experience
Helped others take their ease
And through maintained resilience,
He stood steadfast for peace.
One meerkat can make the difference!
A hero through and through…
If he can take a noble stance,
Then why on Earth can’t you! ?

NT Sentinel

Richard Hebditch the National Trust’s External Affairs Director has just said:

“We’re disappointed that the Committee [the High Speed Rail Bill Select Committee] already seems to be ruling out a long tunnel under the Chilterns. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have that designation because of their importance to the nation. As the nation’s biggest infrastructure project for decades, the HS2 project should have the best mitigation for its route through the AONB. In our view, that means a fully bored tunnel. We hope that the Committee will think again on this when they hear from individual petitioners in the coming months.”

Whereas at Stonehenge?

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NT red face

message

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You can write to the Trust very easily here . (Just say to Dame Helen Ghosh that as a stakeholder you support the simple but compelling principle of no new damage to Stonehenge and you think she should too.)

You can also write to UNESCO very easily here. (Tell them that the things that they’re liable to hear from EH and NT, they ain’t necessarily so, and a lot of people in Britain don’t support what they are trying to do to the World Heritage Site).

Can you guess who said this?


“I still find Stonehenge rather dull. When it comes to prehistory, I am more for picturesque Avebury or Brittany’s stupendous Carnac. Wiltshire’s henge is small and fragmentary, and I wish someone would replace the fallen lintels and fill in the gaps.

Another “Stonehenge sensation” this month revealed that the the henge had been a complete circle. Given its astronomical precision, why not put it back as intended by its builders? We do not leave sundials out of line or clocks without escapements. We know where the sarsens and bluestones came from. We rebuild churches and cathedrals. A reconstructed Stonehenge might make sense, and not just to archaeologists.

But there we go. Like Obama and the rest, I have communed too long and am probably going mad.”


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Someone in long flowing robes, high on a hill, hands outstretched to the moon? No, it was the NT’s outgoing chairman, here just weeks before announcing he – and you – were going to support the short tunnel! But that was then and this is now and he has left and you haven’t.

If you feel that supporting a short tunnel conflicts with the Trust’s mission and spirit you’ll be pleased to know it has just invited its members to say how it can stay true to its core purpose (could it be asking you to urge it to change its mind?) You can tell them at enquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk. If you like, you could mention that when they boasted on World Heritage Day that “we’re proud to protect eight World Heritage Sites” you think they should have said seven!)

You could also follow Dan Snow’s advice: “Great that the National Trust has given members a vote on the Stonehenge tunnel. Please help to Save Stonehenge

Dan Snow

Just when you thought it was ignoring democracy,  the National Trust has launched a review of itself and has invited its 4 million members to comment on how it can deliver its core purpose…..

The working party is focusing particularly on the role of the Council – the body of 52 people which appoints the Board of Trustees, holds it to account and generally ensures the National Trust stays true to its core purpose. All our members will be invited to share their views on the review – do take the opportunity to have your say.

So if you’re a Trust member you have a great chance to make a difference. Why not write to them – enquiries@nationaltrust.org.uk saying you wish them to drop their support for a short tunnel at Stonehenge because supporting massive new damage within the World Heritage Site is completely at odds with their core purpose of preserving special places …

for everyone

 Update….

Dan Snow has put it more succinctly….

Retweeted 42 times

Thanks to heritage law expert Peter Alexander-Fitzgerald for directing us to this document  suggesting we were right, the National Trust might be able to make its Stonehenge land “forever sacrosanct”. The National Trust Act 1907 says its holdings “can be declared inalienable which means they cannot be sold, mortgaged or even compulsorily purchased by the government (without a debate in Parliament).” Of course, whether it can is one thing but whether it wishes to is another. But we can all hope. Better a second, honourable u-turn than keeping to a decision that will surely echo down history to its discredit.

It’s true that the Trust and EH have just entered into “a Memorandum of Agreement concerning the management of the landscape in and around the Stones including the A344 and the former Visitor Centre site” but it’s in the nature of a memorandum of agreement that it can be cancelled. The Trust is not yet locked into support for a short tunnel. It could still join The Stonehenge Alliance and call for “no new damage at Stonehenge, forever, for everyone”.

BTW, did you know The Trust is advertising for a Business Development Manager for the Wiltshire Landscape portfolio of sites with a role to “drive the commercial and visitor offer”? That ‘offer’ would be vastly more lucrative if that pesky A303 is removed and the two halves of the Stonehenge WHS are conveniently linked together. If the Trust’s recent u-turn had regard to that it would be a scandal so let’s hope it wasn’t.

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Can we have our National Trust back please? If you’re opposed to what’s happening, please sign this petition (for those living in Britain) or this petition   (for people in the rest of the world including NT employees on holiday).


As National Trust chairman Simon Jenkins once said (in 2008) : To accuse the Trust of being effete, a little bumbling and slow to embrace change is really to accuse it of being what its public likes it for being. ” 

Quite. Slow to embrace change, that’s the ticket, the charm, the thing that keeps the money flowing in from 4 million members. It’s “Forever, for everyone” that hooks them, and until recently the Trust has delivered. As Sir Simon recalled more recently: “When in 2011 the coalition government caved in to developer lobbyists and began to dismantle rural planning” the Trust “pivoted to militant mode.” Their stance has been not far short of heroic. So it was all the more shocking when late last year they did a screeching Top Gear u-turn at our national icon. It was like finding Sir David Attenborough is a Russian spy. Wow!

So the Stonehenge WHS isn’t as well protected as everyone thought. Yes it’s full of scheduled monuments, yes it’s covered by a UNESCO declaration but no, it’s not protected from sudden winds of change – especially if two come along at once (in this case, a perceived electoral advantage corresponding with a key guardian having a temporary brainstorm). So do we need something more robust? I noticed that in America they have something which might fit the bill. Here’s an example –

forever wild

That land is designated “forever wild” under Article 14 of the New York state constitution so it’s status can only be changed by amending that constitution. Imagine if Stonehenge had been in New York State and covered by a “Forever Sacrosanct” statute? Right now it would be – well, sacrosanct – unless and until lots of complex procedures and votes said otherwise. Trouble is, it’s in Wiltshire and a lapse by it’s key guardian and a fag packet electoral strategy plan has done for it in a jiffy. Sacrosanct, nah. Sacrificed, yes.

Not that Britain is devoid of “robust protection”, we invented it. Just last week the Conservators of Malvern Hills have said no to a cable car as they are forbidden to say yes by at least 5 statutory provisions including the Malvern Hills Acts of 1884, 1924, 1930 and 1995! (So no question up there of “but we’d get votes out of it” and “Oh go on then!”) Not that statutes are the only techniques – the Americans also have things called “forever wild deed restrictions” which owners can impose on their land. Presumably the Trust could place  a “Forever Sacrosanct deed restriction” on their land all round Stonehenge. It might not hold the line against a compulsory purchase order but it would at least show they are staunch defenders of what they hold in trust forever, for everyone, not unreliable ones. Incidentally, at Malvern the vote was 21-0 against the proposed development with one abstention. What were the voting figures at the Trust? You don’t know? Why?

Dear Posterity,  For the third time in history we've been asked to allow a visitor centre to be built at the top with cable cars up the slopes but we refused. This has been our gift to you. Enjoy. The Malvern Hills Conservators, 2015.

Dear Posterity,
We’ve been asked to allow cable cars to be built on the slopes and a visitor centre at the top but we refused as we’re not allowed to say yes and we have a duty to “keep the hills open, unenclosed and unbuilt on“. This has been our gift to you. Enjoy.
The Malvern Hills Conservators, 2015.

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